Paul Dunstone is the founder and Managing Director of Brisbane digital agency OSE (Online Solution Experts).
Having worked with some fantastic creative people in the digital industry during his time as an employee, Paul decided to start his own agency that would cater equally to needs of startups, SME’s and enterprise clients.
Based on experience working in custom web development, Content Management System development (Squiz Matrix, WordPress), app design (iOS, Android, HTML5) and the ongoing support of online products and services; Paul has applied his expertise and understanding of what the customer wants to OSE’s daily operations.
With this in mind, Paul’s attention to detail and passion for digital development has helped him to rapidly grow OSE since launching late in 2015. Now working with many of Australia’s most interesting and well-known brands, OSE has allowed Paul to work across a wide variety of industries including Government, education, energy, technology and e-commerce.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
I’ve always been passionate about building things, which is why I chose digital development as my career path. Over the years I noticed that although I was adding a lot of value to the companies I was working for, I felt I could add a lot more value working directly with a range of organisations, therefore chose to launch my own agency that could be structured in a way that addressed many of the challenges my colleagues and I faced working in larger organisations.
Could you explain your business model to us?
At OSE our business model is split between into two distinct revenue models; these being Project Work and Support Services.
Our project work revolves around building products such as websites or developing apps, where we would provide a fixed price for services based on our standard hourly rate. If there is a significant change in scope of the project to be developed, that is priced and provided to the client at which point they can either proceed or decline the addition of that service.
Project work, depending on the size of the project, is usually milestone based and requires a partial upfront payment for engagement, and forms a significant part of our day-to-day business.
Our support services are targeted towards clients we’ve generally worked with before and have regular technical requirements which do not need extensive quotation. For example, a client who we’ve built a website for will likely want minor enhancements performed on an ad-hoc basis, so may choose to go on a monthly retainer which buys them a certain amount of hours, or purchase a services package (i.e. 100 hours) which they can utilise over time.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
Right now we’re working with a diverse range of clients. From startups to Universities, to Government agencies and even a hotel chain! Each of our major projects have a very different set of requirements which require our team to listen carefully to what they’re looking to achieve.
At present, some of our client work is highly technical whilst others are very visual allowing us to explore our creative expertise in digital design which is always fun and also a great portfolio filler.
Can you share with us how you make ideas happen?
At the beginning of each engagement, whether it’s with an existing client or a new customer, we sit down and really work through what the customers’ goals are? Sure everybody wants to make money online, but to do so you need to meet the target markets needs, so understanding what our customers’ target market want is vitally important to shaping a project’s direction.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
I haven’t had too many person-to-person mentors, but I have followed a number of really great online entrepreneurs who have helped me understand how to work smart. It’s amazing how much one person can get done if they’re motivated and work in a way that’s conducive to results.
I read a lot of blogs, industry sites and technical content so have become quite good a focussing on what makes a difference to a small business, both from a marketing and operational standpoint, which has really helped position OSE well.
What does your typical day look like?
Typically, a day starts at 8:30 for me and finishes around 5:30. The majority of this is spent at a PC, in the office or at meetings with clients on-site. At OSE we’re also big on content marketing so I regularly blog or find myself editing content for the OSE blog.
I also do a lot of strategy sessions with customers which helps guide their next move. I really enjoy working with customers on a one on one basis and seeing how our team can help build their businesses.
What challenges have you faced when starting your business in Australia?
Refining our business offering was the first challenge I faced. Initially, I won a nice 4-month contract which helped me leave my job and start my own business, but I knew this was only one of the offerings I wanted to provide my customers, so there was definitely a period of growing into who we are today.
In doing so, we needed to complete work to fund our expansion and marketing. This came by securing more projects and developing our market capitalisation in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Sydney markets which took time, but we’re now seeing the rewards for our efforts.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Don’t start a business you know nothing about. I’ve been lucky enough to have been successful doing something I love and know how to do well. If I had tried to do something like stockbroking which I have a passing interest in, but no real experience, I’m not sure the outcome would have been a positive one.
What companies do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
I really like Xero how they’ve disrupted the accounting industry and organisations like Qantas who were in trouble only to change the way they did business and succeed. I also think Domino’s Pizza is a great example of a company using technology to make a relatively simple task even easier and more enjoyable for their customer base.
What about internationally?
Naturally, I love companies such as Google, but organisations such as Amazon who are set to bring real change to Australian society in the next few months are important to follow and understand what makes them different.
Amazon has actually had a presence in Australia for some time now offering it’s cloud-based hosting service, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and has made major impact in this realm. We offer AWS services and have seen demand skyrocket because of Amazon’s flexible and affordable pricing models combined with the Amazon name. Watch this space, Amazon is coming to the retail sector next and if the digital sector is anything to go by, they will be dominating markets quickly.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I think businesses in Australia can affect social change by supporting local communities. I like to see the results around me in the places I go and with the people I interact, and know that in some small way I helped made this happen.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes can have an impact by working together with local organisations and councils to improve services and get the word out there about new free initiatives and I believe this works best on a local level.
Are there 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
I’m an avid reader of NeilPatel.com. This is one for any business owner or marketer looking to grow their online visibility.
I also like sites such a such as Flying Solo which is an Australian-based business community for those looking to grow their business with handy tips and tricks from industry experts.
If you’re new to coding, I also encourage you to visit Code Academy. This site lets you start with the absolute basics and learn at your own pace. As we see increased levels of coding being taught in our schools and Universities, I think it’s important to have a basic understanding of coding for the web, and besides, it’s really fun!
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?
We’re looking for marketing interns at present. Anyone in Brisbane who is passionate about helping business owners grow their organisations and has a basic understanding of HTML, Photoshop and can use a CMS is on our radar. If you have good written skills and present well, this is also a bonus in our book!
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups what would it be?
What was your biggest challenge in the first 6 months of business and how did you overcome it?
What’s your favourite café?
OSE is based in Brisbane’s CBD, so we’re frequent visitors to Café Brisbane. We love their coffee, service and convenient location and can recommend them to anyone new to Brisbane or who hasn’t tried them out before.